Allen Craig Rumors

AL East Notes: Craig, Smyly, Ellsbury, Saunders

It is by now well-documented that Allen Craig of the Red Sox has experienced a significant decline at the plate, leading to his outright off of the 40-man roster. But as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explains, the fall-off has been so steep that it actually has historical dimensions. Looking at other players who posted consistently strong batting lines in their age-26 to 28 seasons, Speier shows that no other player has fallen as far as has Craig (62 OPS+) in the following two years. There could, of course, still be some hope of a turnaround given the complicated role that injuries in his struggles and the fact that he is still only 30.

  • Rays lefty Drew Smyly appears to be reconsidering the surgical route and could instead attempt to rest and then rehab his ailing left shoulder, ESPN.com reports. It’s not clear what precipitated the changed approach, but manager Kevin Cash says that the current plan may allow Smyly to return later this year. “We’re optimistic,” Cash said. “We’re hearing good things.” While any return to action would, at this point, presumably be rather late in the year — Smyly was just placed on the 60-day DL and would obviously require a lengthy resting and rebuilding process — the realistic possibility of a return could impact the team’s summer trade market plans.
  • The Yankees good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who will not need surgery on his just-injured right knee, as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reports“It is not anything that requires surgery so we are not holding anything that is doom or gloom,” said manager Joe Girardi. “We just have to see how he responds over the next few days and see what [team doctor Chris] Ahmad says.”
  • Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still set to be without outfielder Michael Saunders for three to five weeks, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm reports. Saunders says he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee that arose out of his recent surgery to remove his meniscus. The Jays are still bringing up the rear in the division, of course, and will hope that Saunders can return to action sooner rather than later.

Red Sox Outright Allen Craig

The Red Sox announced this afternoon that first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, meaning that he is no longer on the club’s 40-man roster.

That Craig cleared waivers unclaimed isn’t necessarily a surprise, given the lack of production he’s experienced in the past two seasons and the significant amount of money that remains on his contract. Had any team claimed the 30-year-old Craig on waivers, they would have been required to assume the remaining $25.2MM that he is owed through the end of the 2017 season. The outright does put an exclamation point on what has been an exceptionally sudden fall for Craig, who as recently as 2013 was one of the Cardinals’ most productive bats.

Craig suffered a lisfranc fracture in his foot at the end of the 2013 season and was never himself in 2014 before reaggravating his left foot following a trade to Boston. (Craig, along with Joe Kelly, joined the Sox in exchange for John Lackey.) Over his past 564 Major League plate appearances, Craig is hitting just .207/.275/.302. The Sox had already optioned him to Triple-A earlier this month, but the outright removes him from the 40-man roster, which is now at 37.

Craig, technically, has the right to refuse his outright assignment, but doing so would mean forfeiting the money remaining on his contract, so he’ll remain with Triple-A Pawtucket in hopes of rediscovering his stroke. Boston’s offense has struggled of late and has been anemic all season long when facing left-handed pitching, so a productive Craig would go a long ways toward boosting the team’s overall outlook. In 25 plate appearances at Pawtucket thus far, Craig is hitting .261/.320/.391 with three doubles.


AL Notes: Chris Young, Price, Rodon, Red Sox

Chris Young‘s career turned on a 1,168-word email the Royals right-hander wrote to a St. Louis surgeon in 2013 where he diagnosed himself as suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, writes Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star. Dr. Robert Thompson, director of the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome concurred, and performed a decompression procedure to free the nerves in Young’s shoulder. “I feel better now at 35 than I did when I was in my late 20s, early 30s, because I was dealing with so much pain,” Young said. “I forgot what it was like to be healthy. Now I try to make up for lost time.” And that he has. Nearly two years after undergoing the career-saving operation, Young, the reigning AL Comeback Player of the Year, has been a relevation for the Royals pitching to a 1.06 ERA in seven games (including one start) with a 8.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 17 innings of work.

Elsewhere in the American League:

  • The next start for Tigers ace David Price will be pushed back from Thursday to Saturday to give his mild hamstring strain extra time to heal, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Price says he could have pitched on normal rest, so the move is simply precautionary.
  • The Tigers have a need for a left-handed power bat off the bench, but risk losing out-of-options infielder Hernan Perez to waivers if they attempt such an move, according to MLive.com’s Chris Iott.
  • After throwing 108 pitches in winning his MLB debut as a starter, the White Sox remain coy on whether Carlos Rodon will remain in the rotation or return to the bullpen, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “You’re also somewhat protecting the amount of usage you’re going to get out of him over the course of the year, so there’s some factors that go into it for him and his learning curve and things like that,” said manager Robin Ventura. “There’s more to it than he’s just ready to go.” If Rodon remains in the rotation for the rest of the season, Merkin calculates the left-hander will approach the team’s unofficial innings limit of 160.
  • The Red Sox‘s July 2014 trade of John Lackey for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly is looking worse and worse, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines. Craig performed poorly down the stretch in 2014 for the Red Sox and has been just as bad this year, and while Kelly’s radar gun readings have been impressive, his performance hasn’t (although his peripherals this season have been much better than his 5.72 ERA). Meanwhile, Lackey has pitched well for the Cardinals while making the league minimum salary.


Red Sox To Option Allen Craig

6:42pm: The Red Sox will option Craig to the minors, Mastrodonato tweets.

5:11pm: A struggling Red Sox team appears set to shake up its roster, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. Roster moves are “under discussion right now,” according to manager John Farrell. Michael Silverman, also of the Herald, tweets that one possible move could be a trade of outfielder Allen Craig. The team could also option Craig to the minors. Mastrodonato writes that Craig was in Farrell’s office with the door closed this afternoon.

Meanwhile, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has hit well for Triple-A Pawtucket, was scratched from the PawSox’ game Saturday. Mastrodonato notes that if Bradley were promoted, he could play center field against many righties, with Mookie Betts moving to right and Shane Victorino (who’s currently on a rehab assignment at Double-A Portland) playing right field against lefties.

It would likely be easier for the Red Sox to option Craig than to trade him. He’s off to a .146/.255/.208 start and also hit poorly last year, and he has about $25MM remaining on his contract. It would appear that the only way to trade him, then, would be to eat a significant amount of salary in the process. Hitting coach Chili Davis says he believes Craig needs to play every day to regain his hitting stroke, so perhaps a stint at Pawtucket could help rebuild his value.


Cafardo On Hamels, Rays, Red Sox

The Phillies are “waiting with open arms” to find the right trade for at least one of their big-name veteran players, a major league official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  That list of big names, of course, includes ace Cole Hamels, though Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could also be moved, Cafardo writes.  Amaro recently told reporters that he’s willing to eat part of Hamels’ contract in a trade if necessary, and that could help bring about a deal for the Phillies.  More from today’s column..

  • Major league sources tell Cafardo that the tampering investigation brought by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg against the Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon was reopened when Sternberg objected to the original verdict.  In the end, however, it was found that there was no tampering in the negotiations.
  • Marlins GM Dan Jennings thought he had trade possibilities for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was designated for assignment last week. He’s currently in the 10-day limbo period in which he could be traded, claimed, or put on waivers.
  • Scouts are still waiting for Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig to bust out and it appears Boston is going to play him more to boost his trade value.  Cafardo notes that Craig has historically hit well in the month of May.
  • The Red Sox are trying to create roster versatility by using players at different positions. Shortstop Deven Marrero is the team’s latest experiment after seeing time at second base. One NL scout isn’t so wild about the concept. “He’s a terrific athlete so he’ll do well at the other positions, but this is the type of guy where you know he’s a terrific shortstop so why mess around with that?” said the scout. “He’s got high confidence as a shortstop and now you’re reducing that confidence level by making him play positions he’s not used to.

Cafardo’s Latest: Giants, Craig, Lackey, Hamels, Kazmir, Viola

Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo“At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.

Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…

  • The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
  • Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
  • One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
  • An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
  • David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
  • Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Craig, Wieters, Bailey, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
  • Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
  • Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.

Giants Not Actively Pursuing Outfielder

TODAY: The Giants’ inquiry regarding Craig actually took place before Spring Training opened, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. In other words, it was not in response to Pence’s injury.

YESTERDAY: As they prepare to open the season without star right fielder Hunter Pence, the Giants are not presently in active pursuit of another outfield option, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports on Twitter. If an addition is made, says Gammons, the club would be looking for a power bat.

San Francisco did recently inquire with the Red Sox on veteran Allen Craig, per the report, but found that Boston was not interested in “selling low.” Craig’s name has come up repeatedly this winter as a trade candidate; after struggling through 2014 and heading to the Sox in a deadline deal, he found himself battling with numerous other viable candidates for a roster spot. His trade value, of course, is weighed down by the $26.5MM left on his contract. Most recently, however, reports out of Boston indicated that the team expects to open the season with him on the 25-man roster.

While losing Pence for a significant stretch was undoubtedly a blow, it is at least somewhat surprising to learn that the team actually showed interest in Craig, particularly since he would not appear to have much of a role when Pence returns. After all, the Giants seemingly utilized their available payroll space over the offseason, and have a reasonable temporary replacement in Gregor Blanco.

On the other hand, the club does figure to have a rather left-leaning lineup at present. Regardless, the report seemingly suggests that San Francisco was not inclined to take on a large portion of Craig’s deal, echoing prior reports that the team would only be interested in a low-risk acquisition of the former All-Star. And with no current efforts underway, Blanco remains the odds-on favorite to keep Pence’s seat warm in the season’s early going.


Farrell: Red Sox “Fully Expect” Allen Craig To Be On Roster

Red Sox skipper John Farrell said today that “we fully expect” first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig to break camp with the club, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. The veteran will need to find his opportunities from the bench, says Farrell, but there is “nothing to expect” regarding a transaction involving Craig.

While it is certainly possible to downplay the importance of Farrell’s comments as regards Craig — broadcasting a desire to deal him would probably be unwise — they nevertheless provide some insight into Boston’s plans for its voluminous collection of outfield bats. As I wrote recently, the club has at least eight viable contenders for the team’s various outfield slots and bench roles.

Assuming that Craig joins Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brock Holt on the Opening Day roster, with Holt serving in part as a reserve infielder, the club will likely have only two additional spots to allocate between Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Daniel Nava, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Each of those players, excepting Nava, is eligible for an optional assignment, though there are fairly strong reasons to think that Boston would rather not take that route with Castillo and Betts.

A seemingly minor injury to Castillo has slowed his start, and could provide some justification for starting him off at Triple-A along with Bradley. But unless Castillo suffers a setback or another injury intervenes, the Sox will presumably need to decide whether to option him or Betts, or instead to strike a deal to move one of Craig, Nava, or Victorino.


AL Notes: Craig, Street, Samardzija

The Red Sox shouldn’t be in any rush to trade Allen Craig, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Craig gives them depth at first base, DH, and both outfield corners, all positions where the Sox have injury and age concerns. He’s not an obvious fit for the Red Sox’ lineup right now, but after a miserable stretch run (Craig hit .128/.234/.191 in 107 plate appearances after Boston acquired him), he doesn’t have trade value either, so it would be best for the team to wait before dealing him. Here’s more from the American League.

  • It’s not often wise for players to represent themselves, but Angels reliever Huston Street is an exception, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Street, who is about to exchange extension figures with the Angels, is a real-estate investor in Austin who’s capable of handling contract negotiations. (If Street hits the free-agent market next winter, though, he’ll trust Austin lawyer Bill Stapleton to represent him.) “There’s mutual interest,” Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says regarding extension talks. “He understands where we are, and we understand where he is. He’s a big part of what we’re doing. But it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.”
  • White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija is trying not to focus on his impending free agency, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “When you step back and look at your situation from afar, it’s a pretty intense situation with a lot on the line,” says Samardzija. “But … I like to think what I demand of myself each time out is more pressure than what a contract or what situation my career is in (can bring).” The White Sox hope to retain Samardzija, but it doesn’t appear that any extension is imminent.